Paperwork needed for change of visa

plain image with the words: "j-1 to f-1 paperwork."

So you wanna study in America returns with what paperwork you need to have to you know, study here. I know that this post has been anticipated for some time so today you finally get it! YAY!!

Here is a checklist of all the paperwork you will need to do and have in order to apply and study in America. This is a general one but it helped me a lot so I hope it helps you!

*NOTE: this is under the assumption that you are doing a change of status in the US and not traveling home to do it.* 


  1. Application form for your school. Remember that you need to indicate that you are an international student and to write your permanent home address in your home country as they need this to apply for your SEVIS I-20.
  2. Official transcripts. These need to be the ORIGINAL ones so you need to ask your parents to send it to you if you do not have it. This includes your high school one as well as any other college transcripts you have. In some colleges, you will have to translate it either into English or get it evaluated so that they can see the US equivalent of it.
  3. Proof of English proficency. This is only if your home country is not exempted from it. At my college, I was exempt from giving this information as I am from South Africa
  4. Bank statement and agreement of financial support. This is for whoever is sponsoring you. Your family back home? Your host family? A boyfriend? Each college is different but generally you have to have around $25000 of cash in the bank. This is to prove that they can support you if you are not able to pay for it yourself.
  5. Passport.
  6. Copies of current I-20/visa. This is if you are still in the states.
  7. Immunization forms. This is only needed right before you start school.

Once you have submitted your application to your school, they will accept you and apply for a new SEVIS I-20 and once they have that, you will be able to carry on with the application process.

Now that you have been accepted into the college and they have obtained your new I-20. You will have to complete your first step online by filling out the form: I-539 which you will fill out online. That is all online and then you will need to print it out for your records and for the “packet” you will need to create which you will then send to USCIS and pray that your visa gets accepted.

What goes into the “packet”? 

  1. Detailed letter requesting and explaining the need for your change of status.
  2. Form G-1145: e-Notification of application. This just gives you text messages about your application.
  3. Completed original I-539 form.
  4. Most recent I-94 record.
  5. Photocopy of proof of payment of the SEVIS fee (SEVIS I-901)
  6. Copy of your checks. You have to pay for finger printing as well as this application.
  7. Detailed evidence of financial support.
  8. Photocopy of the visa page and ID page in your passport.
  9. Copy of the signed I-20 from your school.
  10. Photocopy of ALL your DS-2019’s. I had a lot as I was an aupair previously.
  11. Proof of residency abroad. 

In the letter explaining why you want to change your status, it should include the following: 

  1. Be addressed to: “dear immigration services officer.”
  2. Explain what you are applying for (i.e change from J-1 to F-1)
  3. Explain why you are applying.
  4. Include a statement that you plan on returning home when your studies are done and how you plan on using your education to help your country.
  5. List all the contents of your application.
  6. Include your contact information and an original signature.

I hope all this information helps you and makes you feel more at ease when trying to navigate your application. It feels like there is A LOT of information and paperwork. I know itt can be really overwhelming, but it is doable. I will also have a copy of my personal letter as well as information on how to complete the form if you need it. You can email me for that and I will be happy to send it to you.

If you have any other questions that I have not already answered, please DM me on Instagram and I will be happy to answer them!

Check out my first blog on changing your status here! FAQ about changing your visa is here too.

4 thoughts on “Paperwork needed for change of visa

  1. I was planning on going home in July and apply for my visa that side but they have just put a ban on SA citizens traveling back into the country. Thank you for this, getting started on the process today

  2. Hi there
    I have recently completed my application for visa change but I submitted all my documents online and didn’t mail them a packet.
    Would you say this is okay or do I need to mail my documents too?

    1. Hi Robyn, due to COVID-19, they changed the way you submit everything so you are able to submit online and call it a day. Honestly something I would have preffered!

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